STORM CLOUDS’ pilot cities move to the Cloud: The Águeda case

In the EU policy towards the creation of a cloud of public services, there has been a lot of effort during the last few years. In September 2012, the European Commission adopted the European Cloud Computing Strategy. The strategy is designed to speed up and increase the use of cloud computing across the economy as the gain in jobs and overall economy indicators is clearly identified (Figure 1). In particular, public sector organizations have much to gain by taking a cloud computing approach to service delivery in their information and communications technology (ICT) environments.

           Figure 1: European Cloud Strategy 2012
cloudcomputing


Under this context, STORM CLOUDS EU project was established with its main objective focuses on exploring the shift to a cloud-based paradigm for deploying services that public authorities already provide, based on their internal ITC infrastructure.

The STORM CLOUDS project’s methodology was pilot tested in four different cities across the EU countries. Following a common methodological framework, each city participating in the project used the monitoring guide created by STORM CLOUDS, in order to develop a suitable migration mechanism, according to its needs, its urban and administrative context.

The Águeda scenario
In the case of Águeda, the local authorities started their activities with the selection of stakeholders and applications. The strong commitment shown by the City Major on technological updating in all aspects of the city was remarkable and extremely helpful during the whole process. This feature constituted a key parameter, due to the fact that it facilitated removal of a number of obstacles encountered in various cases, while at the same time it resulted in a diversified synthesis of municipality participants in the project.

In the case of Águeda there were four main stakeholders’ selection criteria. Using these criteria, the stakeholders were selected according not only to the degree to which their decision affected cloudification process, referring mostly to policy makers and politicians, but also to the degree to which their everyday life was affected by this change, i.e. technical staff, accounting, procurement processes personnel. Moreover, criteria such as the extent to which the results of cloudification would affect everyday life and the right to participate on the modernisation of the city, resulted also in the selection of a number of citizens as stakeholders.

Using these criteria three groups of stakeholders were defined, including a group of people working for the municipality, a group of people collaborating with the municipality and a final group of people being external to municipality authorities (see table 1). This widely diversified number of stakeholders selected for the city of Águeda resulted on the creation of a rich set of information that was used as input to the process of application/service selection. However, the difficulties on managing and consolidating the conclusions were received as a potential disadvantage of the wide range of stakeholders.

     Table 1: Total groups of stakeholders participating in the Águeda pilot project
agueda_table

In general, the selection process was based on meetings and online questionnaires. Given all the available services, those selected for Águeda were Public Participation Geographic Information System – PPGIS and Location Plants. Moreover, a very useful remark made by the citizens, was the fact that the name was not particularly user-friendly, thus a new name was selected for the application, Eu Participo (=I participate).

This Web GIS app allows any citizen to express their opinion on a theme under discussion. Each participation is related with some geographic feature (street, path, building, garden, furniture, etc). Users can upload photographs relevant for the discussion. This application has an administrative interface to manage themes under discussion. Privileged users (either from local administration or community members) can add new themes for discussion.

The application is available online: http://euparticipo.cm-agueda.pt/

Results
Regarding the Águeda experience, a number of lessons were taken through the empirical implementation of the migration process proposed by the STORM CLOUDS project. Although the involvement of the stakeholders was not homogeneous, an important share of users detected possible issues in the applications and informed us about them. Moreover, concerning the engagement of stakeholders, we have come to conclude that showing transparency in that kind of applications is very well perceived by citizens. In general terms, most feedback received for the application was positive, despite the fact that the most citizens were not interested in knowing the technical details of the application. It seems a bit difficult to get feedback from users about services’ validation based on cloud computing, as this issue is not clear in their minds. Regarding the rest groups of stakeholders, they were also not particularly concerned by the cloudification process and in fact, some resilience and resistance to change was detected. In particular, within the municipality IT department a feeling of losing control and relevance internally was created.

Additionally, it has not been possible to perform any technical or economic comparisons, as relevant comparable information was not available for the previously existing applications in Águeda Municipality. On the other hand, migration of an already existing application on the cloud was in practice a much faster and easier procedure than it was expected to be, performed independently of the Municipality internal IT department, resources were ready to be used and all security threats were already handled by the cloud infrastructure. Besides that, there were no great benefits gained from this process, since Águeda was using the cloud as an IaaS provider and the city had already an internal infrastructure, where servers were virtual machines. Regarding technical issues concerning the cloudification on a public cloud, there were none, mainly because the city authorities were already familiar with virtualization and the documentation received was very easy to follow.

Two main indicators were defined for measuring the migration process: (1) users’ acceptance degree which was measured by questionnaires filled in the meetings concerning the continuation of the user-driven open innovation process and (2) proportional change in the number of users. This latter aspect did not present any particular variation but the acceptance degree was particularly good as 89.23% of the stake-holders formed a positive/neutral view of the Eu Par-ticipo application (Figure 2).

  Figure 2: Migration acceptance results at Águeda
migration-acceptance

Note
This post is based on STORM CLOUDS’ documents (reports and deliverables) and the paper:
Panori A, González-Quel A, Tavares M, et al. 2016, Migration of applications to the Cloud: a user-driven approach. Jour-nal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 41–52.

For further reading
Kakderi C, Komninos N and Tsarchopoulos P, 2016, Smart cities and cloud computing: lessons from the STORM CLOUDS experiment. Journal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 4–13 62-344-1-pb

Panori A, González-Quel A, Tavares M, et al. 2016, Migration of applications to the Cloud: a user-driven approach. Jour-nal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 41–52 64-334-1-pb

Giannakoulias A, 2016, Cloud computing security: protecting cloud-based smart city applications. Journal of Smart Cities, vol.2(1): 66–77 60-338-1-pb